Ponting leads Australia home

A rock-solid innings from Ricky Ponting and a key partnership with Brett Lee were the centrepieces of a successful Australian chase on the final morning of the first test in Fatullah. Bangladesh will take a number of significant positives from the encounter, but in the end it was a disappointing finish on their part, as they failed to capture a win from a dominant position on the second afternoon.

The visitors began the final day with a slight upper hand, requiring under 100 runs with six wickets remaining in their second innings. The key hope for Bangladesh was early wickets, as Australia’s five bowler policy left them with a lengthy tail, and they achieved a crucial early breakthrough when Adam Gilchrist was bowled by Rafique. Gilchrist abandoned the sensible approach that served him well in the first innings and appeared to be caught in two minds as he played back to a full delivery, and the ball turned on to the off-stump.

Rafique wasn’t done yet, and removed Shane Warne soon after. Warne might have been a little unlucky as the ball appeared to be shaving leg-stump at best, but his lacklustre attempt at playing the ball clearly counted against him. After Warne’s dismissal, Australia still needed 76 runs to win with only Ponting and the bowlers remaining.

Ponting had resumed for the day only 30 runs short of his century, but he appeared unphased by the approaching milestone as he played with flawless concentration and patience, knocking the loose delivery into the gap and trusting Brett Lee to defend when necessary. The first 10 runs of the partnership between Ponting and Lee took seven overs to amass, but both batsmen seemed content to wait for the bad ball and otherwise simply conserve their wicket. They were assisted in this regard by the pitch, which was playing remarkably well for the 5th day. Aside from the occasional delivery keeping low and some turn, the main difficulty in the wicket was the slowness that restricted attacking strokeplay.

Austalia broke the shackles with 9 runs off a Rafique over before drinks, but largely the safety first policy continued into the second hour of the morning. Brett Lee played with confidence and style after his early jitters, and wasn’t afraid to dominate the strike at times, or to go on the attack. He struck a magnificent straight six off Enamul Haque that was reminiscent of Matthew Hayden, but otherwise defended on the front foot and picked off the occasional single.

Habibul Bashar turned to Hossein from one end to break the partnership, and then eventually to the new ball and seamers from both ends. Despite Lee striking a boundary off Mortaza to cut the deficit to 30, the promising medium pacer dismissed Lee next ball with a wide ball outside off. The delivery bounced more than expected on the slow surface, and Lee edged an easy catch behind the stumps.

With 30 runs required for victory, Jason Gillespie came to the crease to bat with Ponting, who had crawled to an unbeaten 92 during the 18 over stand with Lee. With the new batsman in and only Clark and MacGill to come, Ponting immediately upped the tempo, and struck a boundary to commence the next over. Ponting and Gillespie added singles to reduce the target to 22, before the last chance for Bangladesh to win the game was offered. Ponting looked for his trademark hook shot to bring up the century, but miscued it up in the air towards fine leg. Mortaza hesitated slightly before coming in for the catch, and the missed moment cost him as he only managed a fingertip to the ball. Ponting crossed for a single and brought up his century in the next over heading into the lunch break, with the fight taken out of Bangladesh.

Australia knocked off the remaining 17 runs after the lunch break and sealed a wonderful comeback win. Bangladesh got the jump on the visitors in a signficant way on the first two days of the test, but when Australia adjusted properly to the unfamiliar conditions they proved capable of beating all the challenges Bangladesh could offer. Nevertheless, when Australia lost their sixth wicket in the first innings they still trailed by 334 runs, and to win from such a situation shows the strength of the side.

Ricky Ponting became the second man in history after Sunil Gavaskar to make four centuries in the final innings of a test match in his match-winning effort, and Adam Gilchrist played one of the best innings of his career when he carried Australia’s first innings with a sublime 144. For Bangladesh, Rafique and Nafees were the exceptional performers, with telling efforts in what could so easily have been a famous victory. Bangladesh will be pleased overall with their performance, but disappointed with their failure to capture a win. They will be seeking to maintain the strong performance when the second test starts on Sunday at Chittagong.

Bangladesh 427
Shahriar Nafees 138, Habibul Bashar 76
Stuart MacGill 8/108, Jason Gillespie 2/47

Australia 269
Adam Gilchrist 144, Jason Gillespie 26
Mohammad Rafique 5/62, Mashrafe Mortaza 2/56

Bangladesh 148
Shahriar Nafees 33, Rajin Saleh 33
Jason Gillespie 3/18, Shane Warne 3/28

Australia 7/310
Ricky Ponting 118*, Matthew Hayden 72
Mohammad Rafique 4/98, Mashrafe Mortaza 1/54

Australia win by 3 wickets.
Australia lead the two test series 1-0.

CricketWeb Man of the Match
Adam Gilchrist – 144 & 12 and 2 dismissals.

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